How to refurbish furniture

Do you want some old furniture pieces gathering dust in the corner? Do you want to breathe a new life into your second hand furniture? Refinishing old furniture is the best thing you can do to give your old furniture the TLC they deserve.

But before you learn how to refinish furniture, there are several important things you should know first. Read on below to know more about furniture refinishing techniques to make your old pieces looking as good and shiny as new!

How to refurbish furniture

Refinishing old furniture

This may sound simple and easy but refinishing wood furniture needs time, patience, and the right tools for getting the job done. Although this is not a task that you can complete on a weekend, it is vital to give yourself space and time to follow the steps below:

1. Remove the old finish

Removing the old finish is the very first step to refinish your wooden furniture. This is also likely the messiest and most tedious part. There are actually two methods for doing this task – sanding and chemical stripping.

Chemical Strippers

Also called paint and finish strippers, chemical strippers are considered the most effective products to remove varnish and paint from wooden furniture.

There are several recommended supplies you need to prepare before you start to strip the old varnish and paint:

  • Chemical wood finish and stain stripper
  • Dust mask
  • Eye protection
  • Scraper tool or putty knife
  • Steel wool

Make sure you have enough and proper ventilation no matter where you are working since it can be dangerous to inhale chemicals.

Take note that for most purposes, you will also want to go for a thicker formula such as a paste or gel. A liquid paint stripper is going to run and you can only use it on horizontal surfaces. The easier and quicker alternative for a smaller project is an aerosol spray stripper.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when you use the paint stripper. In general, however, you should apply the stripper in a thick coat then wait for some time as stated on the container. Use a scraper tool or putty knife to remove as much varnish and paint as possible and wipe your tool’s blade between scrapes. Steel wool can be used as follow for tougher areas as needed.

Let the wood dry completely before you proceed to the second step.


Sanding the wood is still necessary even after you use the chemical stripper. Although sanding doesn’t give off dangerous chemical fumes, see to it that you still got proper and adequate ventilation in any space you will work in because sanding can release debris and dust into the air.

The recommended supplies for this step include:

  • Dust mask
  • Eye protection
  • Palm sander
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sandpaper or sanding block

Always see to it that you dust in a similar direction as the grain instead of against it. Your final work’s quality will depend on how careful you are with this particular. It will make a big difference if you take enough time to thoroughly sanding the piece.

  1. Use the palm sander of 80 to 150 grit for removing majority of the finish.
  2. Repeat the first step until the bare wood is visible.
  3. Use the palm sander of 150 to 200+ grit to remove the remaining paint or stain until the entire piece is bare.

You can use a tiny piece of sandpaper or sanding block to complete the job for places that are impossible or awkward to reach using the sander.

Remove the sanding reside once you are done.

2. Fill the wood grain

It is an optional step and it depends mainly on the specific type of grain that your furniture as if you will be doing it or not. Grain filler is not required for woods with tight grain but for furniture with more grain such as mahogany or oak, applying filler might be a good option.

The recommended supplies here are:

  • Scraper tool or putty knife
  • Stiff paintbrush or rag
  • Wood filler

Make sure you pick the correct pigment for the filler. Choose a contrasting color to that of the wood’s natural color or the specific color you want to stain it to emphasize the wood’s grain. Select a closely matching color with wood’s expected finished color if you want to de-emphasize the grain.

  1. Use a stiff paintbrush or rag for applying the filler and working it into the wood grain.
  2. Use a putty knife or plastic scraper to eliminate excess filler.
  3. Sand the furniture lightly and ensure that you sand with the grain after the filler has completely dried up.

3. Apply the sanding sealer

Another optional step for furniture refurbishing techniques is the application of a sanding sealer. This can help your wood have an even absorption of the stain.

The supplies you need here include:

  • Clean rag
  • Sanding sealer
  • Sandpaper

This process is quite a process that can often produce worthwhile results.

  1. Start with applying a heavy coat of the sanding sealer then let it soak to the wood.
  2. Use a clean rag for wiping off excess sealer.
  3. Allow the sealer to dry.
  4. Sand the surface lightly to make the application more even.

4. Stain the wood

You can choose from several options for staining the wood. These choices include oil-based stains, water-based stains, one-step finishes or stains, and gel stains.

Suggested supplies for the step are:

  • Clean cloth
  • Staining pad or paintbrush

During stain application, follow the recommendations of the manufacture. Staining paid is the easiest tool you can use for applying stain but you can also use a paintbrush. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Apply a generous stain coat to the wood.
  2. Use a clean cloth for removing excess stain then wipe with the grain lightly to prevent streaking.
  3. Apply one more coat stain to the wood surface.

You might have to apply several coats until you achieve the desired color. Allow the stain to dry in between coats.

5. Clear coat application

There are many factors you need to consider to identify the specific type of finish you will use. You have to consider what your goal is, your skill level, how you will use the item, and how durable the finish must be.

The supplies you need for this are:

  • Sanding paper
  • Clear coat

Use and apply a clear coat evenly as you follow the wood’s natural lines.

  1. Apply the clear coat layer directly to the wood.
  2. Sand the wood surface lightly.
  3. Apply the last layer.

Once you have applied the last layer, let the wood cure completely for 24 hours before using it.